Chapter 2 then, is a very dark one. It introduces by way of
parenthesis a very necessary warning. With the third chapter the
apostle Peter returns to his main theme, the immense importance of
true prophecy. The true believer, being born again, has a
Yet though pure it needs to be stirred up to constant mindfulness of
what God has said whether by the holy prophets of Old Testament days or
by the apostles and prophets of the Lord Jesus in New Testament
Scripture. The chapter plainly shows us what is the effect of bringing
prophetic truth to bear upon the pure mind of the believer; he is
thereby separated in heart and life from the world that must come not
only spiritually but also materially under judgment and so disappear
(see, verses 10-14).
This, be it noted, is exactly the opposite of what is found in 2
Peter 2. There it is the iniquitous teaching of the false prophet with
the inevitable effect of
entangling its votaries in the world
and its corruptions. Here it is the light of truth given through the
prophet raised up of God, which has the effect of
separating those who receive it from the world and its corruptions.
This distinction stands true everywhere and always. So much so,
indeed, that we may be able to judge of the truth and soundness of any
teaching set before us by asking ourselves this simple question,-if I
receive this teaching as truth will it have the effect in my mind of
separating me from the world or of confirming me in it? There are other
tests, of course, which we must not ignore, but this one alone is quite
It would seem that immediately the apostle Peter returned to the
subject of true prophecy he was conscious of the fierce antagonism to
it on the part of adversaries. Hence first of all he issues a warning
and that especially as to the opposition to be expected in the last
days from scoffers, walking after their own lusts. Wishing to give free
rein to their carnal desires they deride that which most would put a
check upon them.
There have always been scoffers of this sort. Verse 4 however
predicts that in the last days they will base their scoffing upon the
steady continuity of all things from time immemorial, which, they will
assert, makes any sudden catastrophe, in days to come, such as the
coming of the Lord, an unthinkable thing. Verse 5 follows this up by
stating that to fortify their denial they will also deny that such a
catastrophic intervention as the flood could ever have taken place in
times past. They "willingly
[i.e., wilfully] are ignorant" of it. The thing is hid from them because they will to have it so.
This prediction of verses 3 to 6 is really most cheering for us.
Here is a prophecy of the Scripture the fulfilment of which is being
dinned into our ears almost every day. During the last century there
has been a greatly revived expectation of the coming of the Lord
amongst true Christians, and during at least the last half century the
idea of His coming has been resisted with increasing scorn, for it cuts
right across the evolutionary theories which are all the rage. To a
mind obsessed with evolution the flood of the past, as recorded in
Genesis, and the personal coming of Christ in the future are equally
unbelievable. They remain wilfully ignorant of the one and they
scoffingly deny the other. For over nineteen centuries scoffers have
scoffed. Only during the last half century have they scoffed
on these grounds. But the scoffers are to scoff on these grounds
in the last days. Therefore the conclusion is definite and unmistakeable:
we are in the last days. This is indeed most cheering. We may well praise God! This day is this Scripture fulfilled in our ears (see, Luke 4: 21).
How did the flood take place? The answer is, "by the Word of God."
By "the same Word" the existing heavens and earth are reserved unto
fire in the coming day of judgment. The Word of God overthrew the
flimsy unbelief of men in the past and it will do so again. The eye of
faith sees written upon the finest construction of men's hands, the
"RESERVED UNTO FIRE.
The mocking question of the scoffer springs of course out of the
fact that many centuries have elapsed since the Lord left this earth
with the promise that He would come again quickly. We have therefore to
recognise the fact, stated in verse 8, that God's ideas of time are
very different to ours. A thousand years are as one day to Him, as
indeed Psalm 90: 4 had told us, one day is also as a thousand years, as
is illustrated in verse 10 of our chapter. We must not therefore count
Him slack if much time has elapsed to our way of thinking.
The reason for the long waiting time is not slackness but
long-suffering. The second advent will mean the striking of a
tremendous blow in judgment. This though necessary is no joy to God. He
does not desire that any should perish but that all should come to
repentance. The alternative is very clearly stated in these words. It
repent or perish.
Yet the judgment blow
will be struck when the time arrives. The Lord
when men do not expect Him, as a thief in the night, and thus usher in
His day. That "day" will comprise a thousand years as other Scriptures
show. It will commence with His coming and not close until the passing
away of the earth and its surrounding heavens, dissolved by fire. This
will not take place until the end of His thousand years' reign is
reached, as stated in Revelation 20: 7-11. That same destruction of the
heavens and the earth will usher in the "day of God" of which
Revelation 21: 1-8 speaks,-the eternal state. The "day of the Lord" and
the "day of God" are like two circles touching each other and just
overlapping at the point where the heavens and earth are destroyed, so
that their destruction may be said to be in both of them.
The day of the Lord is the period especially characterized by the
exaltation of Christ, as Lord and Administrator of the will of God,
when righteousness will reign. It lasts for 1000 years. The day of God
is the succeeding eternal state in which God shall dwell with men in a
new heaven and new earth and there righteousness shall dwell without a
solitary foe to challenge its peace.
These things are plainly declared in the prophetic Word and we know
them. But to what end are they made known to us? The answer to this
question is found in verse 11 and in verses 14 to 18. All is designed
to have a present effect upon our characters and lives.
We know that the dissolution of the earth and all its works is
decreed by the Word of God. Then we shall be marked by "holy
i.e., a separate manner of life-and godliness.
We shall be as those who expect and hasten the coming day. The
Christian who spends all his energies in making the best of
this world may affirm that he knows these things, but he hardly
in the true sense of the term. Lot struck his roots deeply into the
soil of Sodom but it was because he did not know its doom was decreed.
What would he have done had he known it? In very deed the light of true
prophecy has a separating and sanctifying effect.
We know too that we shall enter into the blessedness of the eternal
state in the new heavens and the new earth. Then we shall be
Peter returns to the word he had used in 2 Peter 1: 5-to walk now in
peace, spotless and unblameable. The eternal state will be a scene of
peace because no spot nor blame shall be there. Well, we shall aim at
the characteristics of the new heavens and new earth before they
Further, we shall account that the present longsuffering of our Lord
is salvation, consequently we shall not chafe under the waiting time it
imposes upon us. We shall know that every day of waiting and perhaps
suffering which is entailed for us means the salvation of multitudes.
And not only this-for the "accounting" will not stop with a mere mental
recognition of the fact but express itself in action-we shall bend our
energies to the setting before men of that which is ordained for their
salvation, until the Lord comes. The gospel of God is "the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1: 16).
As Peter opened his first epistle (1 Peter 1: 12) it appears as if
he referred to Paul's labours amongst these dispersed Jews. Now at the
close of the second Epistle he specifically names him and not only "all
his epistles" in a general way but also some special writing or epistle
which he had addressed to them, according to the wisdom given him from
on high. So evidently Paul wrote to the Hebrews. It may of course have
been a writing not intended for preservation as part of the Scriptures,
and hence not extant today. It is much more likely to be that wonderful
Epistle to the Hebrews that we possess for our soul's rejoicing. In
that Epistle he does indeed "speak of these things." See particularly
Hebrews 12: 25-29. He speaks of them in his other epistles too.
Notice how Peter writes of Paul, the man who had to withstand and
rebuke him once at Antioch (See Gal. 2: 11). Not a trace of bitterness
is there, nor a trace of that Judaizing spirit which Paul had to
withstand. Martyrdom was approaching for both of them, and it is,
"our beloved brother Paul." Delightful-is
it not? The freest flowing forth of Christian affection and the fullest
acknowledgement of the grace and gift bestowed upon another than
himself. We can see the warm and loving heart that beat in Peter
without the taint of egotism, which marred it when he was young, and
thought he loved more than all the other apostles.
Yet he had to say that in Paul's epistles there were things "hard to
be understood." In so saying he wrote doubtless as the apostle to the
circumcision identifying himself with the believers of his own nation.
All the truth concerning the church, its place in the purposes of God,
its privileges, its composition of an election gathered from Gentiles
as well as Jews, all that which Paul speaks of, in short, as "the
mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3: 4) was bound to be "hard" to a Jew. It cut
across every fibre of their national feeling which had been fostered
for centuries. The truth was simple enough from an intellectual point
of view but the eyes of their
hearts needed opening to see
it. This was recognized by Paul in Ephesians 1: 18, where the word
"understanding" should be "hearts". Except we too have the eyes of our
hearts opened we have to sadly confess when we read God's Word it is
hard to be understood.
Scripture too may be wrested or distorted to the destruction of
those who so treat it. Those who do so are "unlearned and unstable."
"Unlearned," or "untaught," means of course untaught, not in the wisdom
of the world, but in the things of God. Here Peter may have been
especially referring to a Gentile danger, the sort of thing that Paul
himself warns Gentiles against in Romans 11: 13 to 29. If Gentiles
misunderstand and misuse God's truth so as to become "wise in their own
conceits" they are very near destruction. Still even if Peter did
especially refer to this his words are capable of a much wider
application. Let us all beware of twisting the Word of God!
Now, we have been forewarned. Thus we are forearmed against the
error of the wicked, lest we should fall. The error of the wicked was
fully exposed in 2 Peter 2. It is not enough however to be warned
against evil; we must be in the positive enjoyment of truth. The way
not to go back is to go on. Like a man on a bicycle, the Christian must
go on if he would avoid falling off. Hence we must "grow in grace and
in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
This word just summarizes the main teaching of the Epistle.
Spiritual growth was the great theme of 2 Peter 1 and to it the apostle
returns in his closing words. All true growth is in grace,
the grace of God. Then
as we expand in grace we grow in graciousness of spirit. All true
growth too is in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, in whom the grace of
God has reached us.
Who shall set a limit to our expansion in grace and in the knowledge
of the Lord? Both are alike illimitable. Planted here, we are like
trees that have struck their roots down into a subsoil of fertile
richness that is without a bottom!
"To Him be glory both now and for ever, Amen."